The House: Week 1

If, anytime in the next eight months, you find yourself wondering, “Where is Emily? Why is she such a slack, good for nothing, lazy blogger?”, just think of this.

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Or this…

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Or this:

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Welcome to our new home: a 3,000 square foot, 1890 Victorian/early Arts and Crafts Four Square, in Crafton, PA. Once the lovely summer home of a well-to-do Pittsburgher, it was turned into an up-down duplex sometime in the 1940s (we think). Lots and lots of remuddling went on then. More remuddling went on in the years that followed. Now, it’s ours. Yay.

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The Catholic Table’s Guide to a Guilt-Free Thanksgiving, Part 1

Despite the fact that most of my kitchen is currently packed away in about 464 different boxes, I’m still planning on cooking this Thursday. Not the whole shebang, mind you. Just some of the shebang: sausage and apple stuffing, creamy garlic mashed potatoes, and winter spiced cranberry chutney.

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I’ll then tote those delights over to my mother-in-law’s house, where the rest of the shebang is being cooked. These are some of my favorite dishes I cook all year, and I’m not letting some pain-in-the-rear move keep me from happiness.

Moves, however, aren’t the thing keeping many a person from happiness at Thanksgiving. For many of us, it’s guilt…and anxiety..and poorly cooked Brussels sprouts. The devil is always at work, and he loves to turn what’s supposed to be a merry feast into an occasion for sin and fear.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. It is possible to navigate both seasons of feasting and seasons of fasting with peace, freedom, and ample amounts of tasty treats.

In Chapter 9 of The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet, I talk about how I do that. Here’s a small “taste” of my thoughts on the subject. Continue reading

How I Do Advent: Extreme Entertaining

Once upon a time, I had visions of Advent activities dancing through my head— visions of Jesse Trees, sweet little wreaths hung from dining room chandeliers, and rows of tiny shoes left out by the fireside for Saint Nicholas to fill. Those visions, however, went hand in hand with visions of a house overflowing with babies. Since the latter visions haven’t come to pass, neither have the former.

As most single Catholic woman will tell you, come Advent, it’s easy to feel left out in the cold. So many of the Church’s loveliest traditions for the domestic church are traditions best enjoyed in the company of children. Or at least another person. So, what’s a liturgically minded gal to do?

Borrow other people’s children, of course.

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Your Catholic Home

This story originally ran in the October 8, 2015 Edition of Our Sunday Visitor, and was the inspiration for the Catholic Home series.  I’m posting it here, so it can be accessed digitally by those without an OSV  subscription. 

For follow-up posts to this article, see, “The Catholic Home” and “Housekeeping 101: Catholic Style.”

The Catholic Faith, always and everywhere, is an embodied faith. It’s a faith of sacraments and sacramentals, of liturgical rituals and liturgical gestures. It’s a faith that recognizes that all creation is made by God, loved by God and speaks of God. Matter, in this world, always possesses the potential to be an occasion of grace.

Catholics know this. We feel it in our bones, even if we can’t articulate it. That’s why, when we walk into a Catholic church, we expect to see what we believe reflected back to us, not just in the sacred liturgy, but in the building itself — in the height of its ceilings and the cleanliness of its carpet, in the sacred art in the sanctuary and the placement of the sacred vessels on the altar. In effect, we expect to see our faith made incarnate in plaster, glass and marble, with the very walls proclaiming the glory of God.

We should expect to see something similar when we walk into a Catholic home.

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Pork Tenderloin in Fig Sauce with Fried Apples and Roasted Acorn Squash

A long time ago, in a land far away (roughly 30 years and 650 miles), there lived a little redheaded girl who did not like her vegetables. She didn’t like lettuce. She didn’t like broccoli. And she only liked carrots when they were cooked for hours in her mother’s beef stew.

Now, that little girl didn’t like not liking vegetables. It bothered her that others were enjoying something that she could not. She felt left out…like she was missing some big secret. She especially felt left out in the fall, when her parents and sisters happily ate their roasted acorn squash. They really, really liked the green and golden treat. But try as she might, the little redhead really, really did not.

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Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Butternut Squash, Bacon, & Brown Butter

Things are about to get awfully quiet around here. And I’m not going to like it.

Last spring, one roommate abandoned me for San Francisco—something about it offering more amenities than Steubenville. I know: crazy talk. Now, in a little over a  week, my other roommate will abandon me for a small apartment two blocks away (and a bit deeper in the local ’hood). Apparently, she wants to actually live with her new husband after they get married. It happens.

So, here I am, facing the impending winter and a whole lot of quiet. Accordingly, the melancholic in me has been thinking back to last fall, when the house was full up with girls.

Granted, getting all of us in one place sometimes felt like a minor miracle. Between travel, boyfriends, and work, it didn’t happen very often. But when it did, there was always food involved— like the crisp November night, when I decided to investigate what happened when you fry gnocchi in brown butter, then toss it with roasted butternut squash, bacon, sage, and pumpkin oil.

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No Bake Cashew & Salted Caramel Ice Cream Cake

It’s been a rough week around here. Not “people dying, children starving, hurricanes hitting” rough. Just “deadlines looming, plumbing breaking, house projects overwhelming” rough. Or, more simply put, “stupid first world problems” rough.

Then, of course, I—being the hyper-organized, super-scheduler, over-planner that I am—had to go and make it all the rougher by sweating and fretting about All The Things. And I do mean All The Things: All The Things I have planned; All The Things I don’t have planned. All The Things I need to do. All The Things I might not get the opportunity to do. All The Things that might change. All The Things that might not change.

It’s perfectly insane, and I am aware of this. But it goes with the territory of being me. The same organizing skills that enable me to juggle a dozen different writing projects, plan big, fancy parties, and keep a house looking all pretty like are the same skills that allow me to whip up my very own stress tornado—a whirling vortex of anxiety where I see All The Things forever and ever coming at me.

I’m actually a lot better about avoiding that vortex than I used to be. But better isn’t perfect, so from time to time, I find myself borrowing trouble from tomorrow, only to discover (surprise, surprise) that such borrowing is a very bad idea. God doesn’t give you the grace to bear tomorrow’s troubles; he only gives you the grace for today’s troubles…or sometimes just the moment’s troubles. All attempts to borrow beyond the day inevitably result in just more trouble.

Occasionally, however, they also result in Cashew & Salted Caramel Ice Cream Cake.

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Sweet and Savory Quinoa Salad

Dating in your 40s is a little like dating in your 20s. You still plan fun trips together and talk about cool new cocktail bars. But, you also talk about blood pressure and progesterone levels and all sorts of middle age problems that you barely knew existed in your 20s. You also wonder things like, “If we get married and have kids, will I live to see them graduate from college?” And, because of that, you do things for your boyfriend like make him a week’s worth of “healthy” lunches.

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A Grilled Cheese Party

On Sunday, it snowed. Again.

On Sunday, my plans got cancelled. Again.

On Sunday, I wanted to throw knives. Again.

But, instead of throwing knives, I decided to throw something a little less deadly: A grilled cheese party.

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It was a good decision, requiring only a few good friends (who conveniently live within walking distance), plus all the bread, cheese, meat, and fixins I could scrounge up.

The pickeled and smoked jalapenos from last summer’s garden? Perfect. The leftover mozzarella from last week’s pizza disaster? You bet. The fig jam I picked up on an outing to Cleveland’s Westside Market two months ago and have been wondering how to use? Even better.

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Grilled Cheese Party Fixins

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